Resilience Is…

By Emma Pearson

May 25, 2024

1 November 2020

I could have gone a few different directions for this week’s writing. One was going to be about some death admin that was, in the end, straightforward and easy, if also hard. I might yet write about that, just because I do so love challenging my embedded belief that all admin (death admin) is horrendously horrid and obnoxiously awful.

I could – and very nearly did – write about the pivot moment yesterday of simply free-falling into tears and body-wracking sobs as I heard a new piece of music by Tim Minchin. Tim Minchin = Matilda = Julia. I’ll probably still write about that too.

But that pivot point ended up with me talking at length with one of my besties, Victoria, and coming up with this piece. Such is the way of a few hours in a working Saturday.

Victoria is special. In so many ways. I have known her since just before my 18th birthday. That’s now 35+ years ago. But post losses she is all the more special because of three immensely important reasons. It’s hard to limit to three but the three are vital threads connecting her to me.

One is that she is – I believe – the only person bar one or two (Betsy & Bryony) who knew Don, Edward, Mike and Julia, and she’s the only one who knew them all well. Don, Victoria and I were at university together, skied together, and much mored together. Ed is probably the one she met the least. Victoria loved Mike and she articulated – for the umpteenth time – some of the reasons she loves and admires him yesterday. And Julia… ahh… still so hard to go there. But I know Victoria loves Julia and she chose her daughter’s school on her return from Canada a couple of years ago in part because my two girls were there. In an ideal world, Julia would still be there. But my life has not been text book ideal.

Victoria is also special because she is the one person I have tried and tested in now two moments of plummeting emotions and spiralling anguish and picked up the phone to call, and she has just watched me cry. By golly, I will be thanking and praising her when I am on my death bed for that gift.

And finally, our professions and interests overlap so we bounce off one another with new ideas and concepts and reading and learning, and at least for me, get off on one another’s cerebral matter.

We got onto Resilience yesterday and at some stage in the conversation I commented that it sounded like Victoria was building up her Resilience. To which she said, “I don’t feel resilient at the moment. I am not able to do it all. I need to ask for help and that’s not resilient”. To which I said, “I have such a different perspective of Resilience. For me, Resilience is precisely about being able to track where you are at, and knowing when you need to ask for help”. We talked around that for quite a bit and while I have more noodling to do, here’s what I believe in this moment about resilience.

Resilience is…

  • Being able to expand to absorb more chaos and mess and upset and still be more or less fit for human consumption
  • Being able to track where emotional, mental, physical and spiritual energy is at, and knowing what builds it and what drains it
  • Knowing what nurtures one’s connection to life/joy/essence and making replenishing that a priority
  • Noticing in the moment when energy is becoming frazzled, and articulating to a person or oneself, “I am taking myself away from this right now”
  • Remembering we are not completely alone, even though we feel we are, in what we are facing. Yes – we are alone in our aloneness, in facing what is ours to face; and others are alone in their aloneness facing their own stuff. So my “whole truth” version of this irritating platitude is that “we are alone, and yet we are not alone in our aloneness”

Resilience is not…

  • Battling on and doing it all alone
  • Being “strong” enough NOT to ask for help
  • Bouncing back from adversity to who you were before shit happened. There is no “bouncing back” just like there is no “going back”.
  • Managing to put a smile on my face despite having four shitty losses in just a few years
Image by Lubo Minar on Unsplash

Resilience for me is about my outer membrane expanding and contracting around me, allowing me to take on, to absorb, to accommodate more or less “schtuff” – whether my own or others’. But more specifically it’s about my in-the-moment awareness of how healthy, how resilient, that membrane is, and doing things that help sustain its health.

Resilience is one of my superpowers.

Along with Joy.

And Gratitude.

And Optimism.

They build off one another, knitting support and structure in and around my battered life. It’s not all incremental building – far from it – but they are inextricably linked, and provide me with some buffer and cushioning for continuing this journey called life.

Image by Sugar Rose on Unsplash

About Emma Pearson

3 thoughts on “Resilience Is…

  1. Thank you for your words. I needed to think about resilience myself and they helped.
    Joy i find it rarely at the moment, but will keep looking and trying for it.
    Gratitude I remind myself daily and keep a gratitude journal.
    Optimism I think I am an optimist at heart. It keeps peeping through my sadness and will triumph I feel sure.

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